Monday, December 27, 2010

Family Time

This past week has been mostly filled with traveling from place to place and then nesting. Our little cottage is adorable and very comfortable and we’re settling happily into a quiet lifestyle compared to the traveling marathon we’ve been on the past five months. It has also been interesting having other people in our little group. We have so much to share with our new family members that we all want to talk at once as though there isn’t enough time.

On Boxing Day we had my aunt Alison, my cousin Richard and my parents accompany us to the nature reserve on the North Sea coast. It was a beautiful day; sunshine and happiness. It was cold with an even colder breeze on the beach but the reserve was lovely.

We walked along the sand watching the waves roll in and the wind turbines spin in the distance. The turbines have been controversial here. This is the best place because of the geography but it is also reserved land. How do you balance the need for ecological preservation with the need for renewable energy resources? Even on our walk we could see that part of the sand was covered in slick black goo. Oil strikes again.

Today we drove into the nearby town of Lincoln with my parents and aunt to visit the cathedral. It was a magnificent cathedral, if a bit chilly. They don’t heat their churches over here but I suppose it makes sense if you see the size of them. Today I learned that a church becomes a cathedral when the bishop’s seat is there. The bishop’s seat in Latin is called “cathedra”. Another interesting fact is that the Lincoln cathedral was considered the tallest building in the world…in 1411. It had a higher spire on it that has since fallen. Rhys thought it was interesting that a copy of the Magna Carta was there. We saw a copy at Salisbury Cathedral back in August. There are only three copies so I guess we’ve seen two thirds of them.

We will have to go back on another day to see the castle and explore the shopping area. We decided to buy our own Christmas present for ourselves sometime before we leave England and visions of sugar plums are dancing in our heads.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve we attended a church service in Horncastle with Neil, Richard, my mom and Ian. It was a candlelight service so we each got to hold a candle. The church was neo-gothic renaissance in style, as only those who have visited hundreds of European churches would know. We admired the gothic stone archways and interesting wood ceiling. We sang Christmas songs together and listened to Mary, Joseph and a shepherd give their eyewitness account of the big night. It was a nice evening, we all agreed.

The weather on Christmas Day was everything you could hope for. In the morning there was bright blue sky. The air was crisp and clear. A dusting of snow lay over our car and on the ground outside. By the afternoon, the sky had clouded over and snow began to fall. It was quite lovely sitting in the parlour with the Christmas tree and fireplace lit, surrounded by brightly wrapped packages and people we care about, watching the snowflakes fall.

My mom and Ian came to our cottage for breakfast and presents. We had our traditional breakfast meal of cheese soufflé, bacon and sweet rolls. Tom spent a loooong time whipping the egg whites to get them stiff for the soufflé as we don’t have beaters. That’s real dedication to a breakfast.

At noon we went over to Neil and Shelagh’s house. Neil is Ian’s brother. His sister, Alison was there as well. It was the first time in many, many years that they have spent Christmas together and it was fun to be a part of that. Neil and Shelagh have a lovely old house filled with beautiful furniture and decorations. Our Christmas dinner was also very traditional with turkey, brussel sprouts, carrots, potatoes and more. For dessert we had Christmas pudding, mincemeat tarts and a stollen. We stayed to share gifts and conversation until almost ten o’clock. It was a wonderful Christmas Day in Horncastle, England.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Camel ride

So Ramses, our taxi driver, took us to a little dirt road that wasn’t very obvious. Now, you should know I am a little frightened of some of the people in Egypt, but I’m open to any sort of ride. Once we took the little turn off we got out of the taxi and tried to drink all the mango juice before we got on the camel, because it was the best mango juice in the world and apparently you not allowed to drink mango juice while riding a camel. I wanted to go with dad anitionaly but they said “No! No! we have a small camel, just right for you” So I said “ Um, I guess”. Then the camels came out, the first camel was HUGE! How big do you think a camel can be? Well, double it.

Anyway the second camel was slightly smaller and the third an forth were the same as the first. Mom’s was the first camel and she got on her camel first. As soon as she got on her camel’s hide legs went up and it’s front legs followed once she got her grip. I laughed my head off you should of seen her face! After about a second her expretion changed to a smile, and my face dropped because it was my turn. I got on my camel and t stood up imedietly. VERY scary. It was taller and stronger then a donkey, and I could feel its strength. We got to the riding right away and it was scary at first but I …quickly?…adjusted.

Then we rode past the intersection down the deserted road , through the poor town and past the fields for farming. All the time I was trying not to fall off. It was a fun ride. We saw a river alligator, although it wasn’t quite an alagator, maybe a baby one? Or just a big lizard. Also we smeled lemon leaves, they smelled really good. At one point he asked me if I wanted to go fast, but I declined. Once we got off we gave the guys who took us on the ride a tip and they DIDN’T ask for more. That was a first! We also saw baby horses and a very scared baby cow. That was my first camel experience the second camel experience was in Cairo.

I decided to go with dad this time because I thought it would be boring with out someone to talk to. This time I was ready, mom said we were going to go in to the Sahara dessert. That, I was exited about. Instead of four guys we got all of our camels tied together and just one leading the way. We walked through the city for a while and through the garbage place with some dead sad . Hmmmhmmm……

Then we got to the dessert and it was just a lot of sand with the pyrimids off to our right. Not much to tell. Then we got to a hill and the guy INSISTED we take some weird pictures of us at the pyrimids. Then he said time to go back and mom said “What? I thought we were going to go farther!?” so we went farther and it was more of the same. The guy asked if he could ride on the camel with mom and she said “well, I guess” so then he said “do you want me to?” And she said “ no not really I’m fine.” So he didn’t.

When we were almost back he said “Ok, you pay now.” So dad gave him a tip and he asked for more and dad said forget it. He insisted on it then at one point tried to give the money back eventually he just took it and took us back. When we got of we paid the boss guy and went up stairs to our house. Mom announced that she didn’t like him. And I sorta agreed she said and I quote “He tried to rip us off, I bet if we didn’t go all the way we would have had to pay JUST as much money. Plus he shouldn’t of even asked if he could come on my camel with me. Then he asked you for more money? Come on, you’ve got to be kidding!” I totally agreed. He was awful. The first ride was better.

The Pyramids of Giza™

The pyramids of Giza are right out our window, and they're huge. On the first night we got here, I started climbing up to the roof, and i saw the smallest pyramid and said "Oh my gosh thats a big pyrami-" then I noticed the bigger one beside it. "Wow that's humong-" I stepped up a little more and realized that that wasn't even the biggest one. "Holy cow, that has to be the biggest one!" I stepped up further and all of them lit up with a big buuuuuh! from the sound and light show. It was quite overwhelming. We spent the rest of the evening down out on our porch watching the sound and light show; we still had a great view of the Pyramids.

The next day we went right up close to the pyramids and like I said, they're gargantuan! You can see the little people at the base of it, compare the size! The sphinx however, isn't as big as it appears in pictures. Its still about half the size of the smallest of the main 3 pyramids, but it's made out to be almost as big as the middle one. In the top photo, the middle pyramid's right slope points to it's head which is a browny greenish colour. The middle pyramid still has some of it's original shiny casing, while the big one does not, AND it also was built on a small hill about 10 metres higher than the big one. If both are measured from the big one's base height, they both amount to around 455 feet high. Or so our guide told us, it doesn't really match up in any pictures.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Where the hell am I?

How did I get here?

Driving in a 25 year old Peugeot cab, that smells like raw gasoline, we rumble down a dirt city street past burning piles of garbage, women making bread on the dirt street and a man with four family members on a single 125 cc motorcycle. Since there is no garbage collection in Egypt what do you expect the result to be? Garbage dumped everywhere. Everywhere! Some polite people light it on fire; others just let it slide into the irrigation canal. Pretty. The Nile is polluted, garbage up both sides of it, all along the shores. They don’t even bother to pick up a little around the main dock that tourists use to go for felucca rides. The man on the motorcycle with his family was wearing a plastic construction hard hat, I presume this was for safety but only he had the privilege of a helmet. We pass shops, city policemen with machine guns and a crew of five guys fixing a lamp standard with packing tape. Every few blocks the street has barriers that impede traffic flow. This is for one of two reasons; police check points or to slow traffic for safety. Police are everywhere and heavily armed. Crime is very low and I generally feel safe. In Luxor buildings are six or seven floors high, few are finished on the exterior, money is tight and living space is the priority. Below the buildings are donkeys pulling two wheel carts. They are all the same design, two wheels, flat deck of wood with truck tires. Even though they are obviously all hand built they are remarkably similar. Down an alley could be a market selling fruits and tires or a camel stable complete with camel smells. Our cab stops at the destination, another ancient site. We get to the temple from the cab past an army of pushy, desperate souvenir salesmen and pay our 165 Egyptian pounds for entrance. For a few minutes we gaze at ancient Egyptian wonder until the silence is broken with a “where are you from?” Crap, they found us. More Egyptian nickel and dimers who seem to live inside the ancient sites are trying to ingratiate themselves with a few English words about some dusty stone followed by an open palm. It really ruins most of the experiences. After 8 days of this, I expect it, I would like to say it doesn’t bother me but it does, just for a different reason now. At first it was this culture difference that subconsciously offended me. Now it just annoys me that Egypt can’t sell their Egyptian experience properly. Egypt is rich in history, poor in presentation. I would pay more to avoid the hassle. Everyone would be better off. We don’t frequent gift or souvenir shops because it is too big a hassle. I don’t think anyone has a clue they are driving away all their own precious customers. Fresh meat from the tourist buses sprint in fear past the stalls at the exit gauntlet. We smile; we can see and smell their fear. Noobs! We have had some excellent guides in Egypt. Nice people, even they can see the destruction that the hustle causes but they shrug their collective shoulders, “What can you do?”

That is one side of the coin, the price of seeing Egypt, what about the other. Today I saw the pyramids. I actually stood on the base of the largest pyramid in the world, the only remaining ancient wonder of the world. From our balcony we can see three pyramids lit up by the nightly light show. It is awesome. I have walked in the Valley of the Kings; I stood in King Tut’s tomb. I now know that the Sphinx is much smaller than I expected. We have seen so many ancient temples, statues, sites and hieroglyphics that I cannot receive any more information into my head. The food in Egypt is excellent. This is a big relief to a nagging fear that I wouldn’t eat for 14 days. Egypt is much more Muslim than Turkey is. I mean outwardly Muslim. Arabic script is used primarily and many restaurants and stores sell no alcohol. Muslims in Egypt, and Turkey, are very friendly. Egyptians in general are outgoing and talkative. Tourist areas are the exception. Unfortunately, that’s where we are headed.

Ancient Egyptian treasure is not the only highlight. It surprised me that other highlights turned out to be: the garbage, the pushy vendors, the old cabs and the hustle and bustle of a busy city. If you get into the mindset that it is all one huge show, things get pretty good. For instance pedestrians are everywhere, walking through roundabouts or down the middle of the streets, dressed in black….at night. Did I mention that it is illegal to use your headlights…at night? This is true; our cab driver said it was a 300 Pound fine. The trick it seems is to flash your lights to announce that you are in the area, then a short blast of the horn to announce you are going to go by and then you gun the engine to pass. You are allowed to use headlights out in the country where there are no streetlights. Another difference is the local minibuses. They use the same system as in Turkey. They are minibuses that can hold about 10 people. What happens when you have more than 10? Why you just grab the roof rack and stand on the rear bumper of course. It is completely safe. The buses also drive around with all the doors open. This is fun stuff. Where are you going to find this kind of entertainment in seatbleted, bubble wrapped Canada? Clearly Canada has too many rules. A bus ride anywhere in the city of Luxor cost $0.17 CDN. That’s 17 cents folks! Please pay the driver in advance.

Cairo Surprise

Our place in Cairo is surprising in many ways. We are in an apartment on the top floor of a building that overlooks the pyramids. The picture is the view from our terrace. It took our collective breath away when we first stepped out onto the porch. It was night and the sound and light show was playing. The pyramids kept lighting up at different times in dramatic views. It was in a foreign language so we couldn’t understand a word but we plan to watch again tonight for the English showing. We’re going up to the roof to see it. That was the first surprise.

The drive into our neighbourhood elicited a variety of emotions. It was reminiscent of Istanbul with many small shops selling one specific item. We saw the tire store, the hubcap store and so on. The streets are filthy and everything looks as though it is one step away from demolition. We entered an open parking area filled with horses, camels and donkeys and the car slowed down in front of a building. The ground was dirt as one might expect in a barn area. The smell also helped create a barn environment and although it was dark when we stepped out of the car, we walked carefully.

The door was an iron grate that led to a stairwell. We climbed the cold marble-like steps to the top floor of the building with some trepidation. Our host opened the door into a lovely spacious apartment. The apartment does not match the neighbourhood. It is clean and furnished tastefully and comfortably. Quel surprise! When we stepped out onto the terrace, though, that was when we realized why we were here.

The next surprise was that it was difficult to hear our host greeting us as we are very close to a Muslim minaret. The call to prayer seemed to go on and on so I asked. Ashraf told me that a funeral was taking place. Apparently, they broadcast this to the general public. It goes on for about three hours. In one way, it is kind of nice to be recognized in this way. Don’t get any ideas, Mom. While the funeral was a one time occurrence, the call to prayer happens five times a day. The first time is about 5 am. Ask me how I know this.

The call to prayer is not the surprising sound however. It is the geese and chickens that live on the roof next door that are actually a bit more of a shocker. They rise early and have quite a lively breakfast chat. I have yet to get a picture of the lady who cares for the gaggle. She sweeps with what looks like long pieces of straw and carries a basket balanced on her head. I’m not sure if she can do both at the same time but both skills are equally fascinating to me.

Speaking of fascinating things, today in Memphis we saw some children from the public school nearby. They crowded near us, staring and quietly pulling out their cameras to take pictures. It made me smile thinking of how many pictures I have been taking of the Egyptians going about their business when they find me going about my business just as entertaining.

We passed a public school and I just had to have the driver stop so I could take a picture. You can see the kids on the balcony looking out of the stairwell, I think. There are up to 100 children in a classroom and any Egyptian who can afford it sends their kids to a private school. It is the opinion of our guide that the public schools have a difficult time teaching the kids anything with so many in one class. It makes me shudder to think of it.

School here is divided into categories. There is the school for foreigners and very rich Egyptians which costs around $25,000/yr. Thne there is the private school most Egyptian middle class families send their children to, which costs less because it is taught by Egyptian teachers not foreign teachers. Then there is the public school which takes overcrowded to new levels. For the desperately poor, however, there is Carpet school. These are schools set up to give the children a trade. I didn't delve too deeply into this as Iqbal Masih and child slavery kept flashing before my eyes.

On the train yesterday we met a very nice young man named Amir who shared his lunch with us and many stories as well. He is a pharmacist who wants to immigrate to Quebec. Apparently it is easier to immigrate to Quebec than to Canada. Hmm…that takes some thought. Aren’t we all in the same country? At any rate, he told us Canada is the golden land and to get to live and work there is the ultimate goal for any upwardly mobile young Egyptian. It was an interesting look at our country through the eyes of an outsider. He was friendly and entertaining and his mother makes a delicious meatball sandwich.

He shared interesting information about Egypt as we gazed out the train windows. Many buildings look half finished yet people live in them. That is because they can’t afford to finish it all at once. The price of cement is very high so they build one level at a time. The goal is about six levels. This is so that the sons can marry and bring their wives to live in the same house. Eventually, the son and his family will move out to build their own home in the same fashion. Amir couldn’t get over the idea that we didn’t do the same thing in Canada. How can the kids afford to live on their own right away? Isn’t it lonely? It does give one pause to think. I mean, how DO young people afford a house in Vancouver these days?

He also explained about the different headwraps men wear. Each family has their own style of wrap. The picture here shows three different men with three different headwraps. Sometimes the wrap can denote a religious belief as well. I had never really thought about the different wraps before so it was interesting and has made me look closer at the different styles now.

I can’t say that I am comfortable with the fake friendliness of the touts in the streets yet, but I am beginning to love our time in Egypt.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Valley of the Dolls

Today was surprisingly cold. All right, not as cold as Canada, I’ll give you that but it was definitely not hot. The wind choked the heat right out of that big old sunshine. It also brought in a haze which Ramses told us was sand from the desert. This started in the morning and by late afternoon the sun looked more like the moon and the day presented as overcast. The air was filled with dust and the locals had their faces wrapped. Some were watering down the streets to reduce the dust. It made me cough and sneeze and the air had a dusty smell to it, like an attic that hasn’t been cleaned in a while.

We started the day visiting the ladies of the dead valley. Their tombs are separate from the men like the old school dances. Seems a bit weird if you ask me but apparently this was the done thing. Princes, nobles and princesses all had their own spots too. Queen Nefertari, the wife of Ramses II had her tomb here. This is one tired woman. I bet three thousand years of sleep hasn’t caught her up yet. Don’t forget, she had over 200 kids! Her name means “most beautiful of all women”. Yeah, right. Not after 200 kids. Her tomb was closed to the public…

The tombs were interesting and well preserved but we couldn’t take pictures. Again, the helpful guards pointed out pictures and we coughed up the obligatory baksheesh. We do carry the coin but there’s something about being forced to “give” that sucks the fun right out of it.

We went to Medinet Habu after the tombs. This is the last mortuary temple built. It was built for Ramses III. It was pretty impressive. The walls, columns and ceiling were covered in hieroglyphs. Some of the paint was still there and surprise...we were allowed to take pictures! These hieroglyphs look similar to those in the tombs so kind of pretend you know what the rest looked like. Some of these were carved REALLY deep. The deep ones were cartouches and we figured that by Ramses III, they had figured out that the each pharaoh who came along enjoyed defacing the names of prior pharaohs so they better dig really deep if they want the thing to last.

When we got into the hypostyle hall a guard began to drag me into the forbidden areas. I told him I had no money and apologized. He told me it was no problem and continued to lead me around. I reluctantly followed and we took copious quantities of pictures of me in front of various hieroglyphs blocked from public view. Frequently, I reminded him I had no money and resisted following but he insisted. It was actually a great tour and I saw interesting pictures. I even have a picture of me pretending to touch a statue because the guard thought that would be an excellent idea. At the end he launched into the sad story of the many children he has and could I please give him a little something. I reminded him I had no money which was true. He was extremely disappointed and asked me to look in my purse. I offered him my pen but he wasn’t impressed.

The tours of temples and tombs has been really cool but our ride on camels today topped it all. It cost about $30 for the four of us to take a one hour ride and that included a tip that was as much as the price of the ride! It was a lot like riding a horse. The camels were very soft and their feet were soft as well. They don’t have hooves like horses. Their feet are more like calloused skin.

On our ride we went past banana fields, sugar cane fields, mango and lemon trees and a cool little village. We also saw a crocodile-like lizard in the water which was about a metre long. The boys didn’t know what he was called. It’s never good to be on a first name basis with crocodiles. The village, homes and people were fascinating and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

They still use animals to plow the field. I haven’t got a picture of the water buffalo but they till the soil, and the farmer walking behind then plants the seeds. As the buffalo walks up the next row, the dirt plowed for the seeds in the last row is dumped back over the seeds and a new row is plowed. In thousands of years, they haven’t found a better way to do this. Interesting. A water buffalo is a very valuable animal to the Egyptians. It can cut their food budget in half. As well as helping farm, it gives milk which can be drank but also makes a yummy butter and cheese.

They use donkeys to carry crops into town and you can see them everywhere along the side of the road. The donkey waits while the farmer cuts the crops by hand. They load up their wagon with the greens and drive in to town or back to the stable. The greens feed the farm animals. Horses don’t seem to be used as widely, probably because they cost more to feed.

Everything about the Egyptian’s lifestyle is so foreign and fascinating. It has been my favourite part of the visit so far.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

And...back to Egypt

Today we went to the Valley of the Kings. Wow! We walked through the Valley of the Kings. We explored several tombs including King Tut’s. It was hot. It was dry. It was strangely normal. Last Saturday we were cross country skiing at the base of the Austrian Alps. Today we stood in the Valley of the Kings. That had me laughing somewhat hysterically at lunch today.

The Valley of the Dead was the driest place I think I may have ever been. The earth around us was composed of hills of stone covered with rubble. The hills were a warm beige and had a parched look about them. There wasn’t soil. There was dust. It coated our feet as we walked and blew in our eyes when the wind picked up. We saw no animals except flies. THEY got in your face and had the annoying persistence of a caleche tout. There wasn’t a green plant in sight. No scrub brush, no tree, no weed, nothing. We saw the remains of what looked like it used to be a plant as we drove out of the valley but within the area, it was, as its name implies, dead.

On our way, we stopped at Howard Carter's house. Howard was the archaeologist who discovered King Tut's tomb. His house is oasis in the middle of the arid rock. It was really neat being there, though, because I have read quite a bit about him and his discovery. Also, his last name comes in handy for interesting pictures.

We arrived around 8:30 in the morning but Ramses told us most of the tour buses arrived around 6 am. The valley wasn’t crowded because the tours mainly come on Friday at the end of their week excursions. Everyone normally arrives and leaves on a Saturday. We paid for our tickets, paid for the train, paid for a guide book, paid for more tickets, paid for water (it comes in bottles in this valley), paid the guards who pointed out little things we might not have noticed. None of it was overly expensive but it nickels and dimes you to death…heh, heh.

The guidebook turned out to be money well spent. It had a map and information about the tombs. There were no descriptions anywhere to describe anything, except for Tut’s tomb. There are over sixty tombs that have been discovered so far but your ticket allows you to see only three. You pay extra to see Ramses VI and Tut. We paid the extra. It is difficult to make a decision on which tombs to visit. Ramses, (the cab driver not the dead king), told us which ones to see but when we got in there none of us could remember his recommendations. The names don’t exactly roll off the tongue. It’s not like he said to go see Fred, Bob and Larry’s tomb.

Most of the names sound very similar because the pharaohs would assume a god’s name as part of their own to symbolize their godlike status. For example, Amun is the leading god in these parts so Tutankhamun and Amenotep both have Amun in them. Akhenaton changed his name to reflect his new belief in one god, the god of the sun, Aton. Akhenaton is the one Joseph visited. Joseph helped him interpret some difficult repeating dreams and saved Egypt from famine so Akhenaton decided to dump the old multiple god beliefs and follow Joseph’s one god theory. This didn’t win Akhenaton any friends and he was murdered some time later. Akhenaton was also married to Nefertiti.

It was wonderful entering the tombs. The entrances varied in length, width and height. One tomb had a metal staircase to climb up into the rock hill and then on entrance, you had to walk down, down, down into the hot stone. Many times you had to duck your head and it must have been quite something trying to get the sarcophagus in there. The tombs were surprisingly hot. I mean sweaty hot. The further in you went, the further it heated up. Only a few had fans inside and that just blew the hot air around. When a new pharaoh was crowned, an architect, chief stonemason and vizier would climb into the valley to select a spot for his tomb. This was a huge honour because only a select few knew the location of the tombs. The artists and craftspeople who designed the tomb’s interiors all lived in a village on the West Bank and did not fraternize with the general populace. Speaking out of turn meant certain death.

They must have discovered the other tombs in their selection process because many are very close together. Ramses VI is right overtop of Tut’s. Actually, Ramses VI is Ramses V/VI because the son decided just to usurp his dad’s tomb and they are buried together. Ramses II’s tomb is interesting as well, though we didn’t get inside of it. He is the one who had over 200 kids and being the family man he was, he had rooms for each of his sons added to his tomb. He’s the only one who did this as far as we could see. It is quite the complex, as you can imagine.

Paintings covered the walls of many entrances but some hadn’t been finished. The paintings showed images of the gods enacting various events from the Book of Gates, Book of Caverns, Book of Heavens, Book of Dead and so on. Well read bunch. Many of the paintings were not in very good condition but it HAS been three thousand years or so. One of my favourite paintings was the ceiling of the tomb in Ramses V/VI burial chamber. It showed Nut, goddess of the earth and sky covering the heavens.

We left the Valley of the Kings and went to see Hatshepsut’s temple. Hatshepsut was an interesting pharaoh because she was a lady. She was one of the only female pharaohs. Her father, Thutmosis I was a pharaoh. Her husband, Thutmosis II took over from him and when he died she took over. She ruled for 16 years quite successfully but she must have been one interesting character. When her son, Thutmosis III took over after her death, he began defacing her monuments. Her body disappeared from its tomb and was only discovered recently. Other pharaohs also dismantled monuments she had erected so there isn’t much left of her around. I don’t know if this says more about her personality or the male ego but when we get a good internet connection, I want to find out.

Ramses took us to a great café for lunch. It reminded me a lot of Turkey. The food was fabulous and similar to Turkey as well. The food has been unexpectedly delicious. We had no idea what Egyptian food was like but fear not! When you visit, the food is great! One nice thing is that when you order a meal here they bring all the accompanying foods with it. We ordered tagine, which is a stew made in a clay dish. It also came with pita and a curry flavoured humous-like dip called tahine, a plate of fresh salad vegetables with vinaigrette, fried eggplant which was surprisingly delicious and rice.

After lunch we visited the ghost town of Deir el Medina. It is where the artists and craftspeople I mentioned earlier lived. It was a bit of a disappointment because there wasn’t a guide. The best we got were the guards who would point to various pictures in the tombs and identify the gods. They each needed to be paid, of course. By the end of the day we had NO small change left and were forced to run when we saw the guards coming. The tombs we saw in the village were very well preserved. They belonged to the head artist. In his free time he would decorate his own tomb. It turned out very well. Obviously, the tomb artists and craftspeople did not lead a life of desperation.

You weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside the tombs so I have none to share. This one is from the Deir el Medina temple. You’ll just have to come see the tombs for yourself.